Dear Marketers, Data Alone Cannot Cure Your Personalization Problems

In a recent survey of our Fortune 500 customers, we asked them to rank their most common data challenges. Integrating multiple data sources was the top result, with analyzing data to draw insights and acting on the data tied for second place.   

In some ways, this is surprising. Data management platforms have been on the market since 2008. With almost a decade of this technology behind us, we should, theoretically, be able to easily integrate multiple data sources by now. The reality, though, is that marketers work in enterprises where legacy systems are still in place.

We don’t always have control over those types of technology barriers. We do, however, have control over what we prioritize. Do we want to market as product-first companies? Data-first companies? Customer-first companies? The answer should drive the choices we make within the constraints we face.

With this in mind, here’s a quick hit list of the over- and under-hyped technologies we’ll see marketers tinkering with in 2018. 



Personalization that isn’t personal

Overhyped: CMOs have celebrated social media, people-based marketing, personalization and walled gardens. And yet, the hype around these trends hasn’t gotten them much beyond, “<NAME>, here’s a special [OFFER] just for you.” 

Underhyped: The real trend in marketing is, “It’s all about me.” There is no halfway strategy to get there. Anticipate what the customer wants completely, or fail — also completely. Personalization is a half-way step toward getting truly personal with customers; the data (truth) is out there. We find that the average person will watch a personalized video for 108 seconds, and that eye-popping stat only comes about from the responsible use of multiple personal data points to tell a story.

Sprint versus marathon 

Overhyped: We love our dashboards, “The Stackies” and knob-twiddling. These are hugely important given the push for marketing accountability, but they’re also a major reason why growth at many brands has stalled.

Underhyped: While tech vendors molly-coddle marketers with promises of easily achieved, data-driven results, they ignore the marketing imperative to create desire. We should be wary of getting so excited about incremental improvements (“our CTR jumped .0165%!”) that we forget the need to challenge old realities and create new ones. 

My voice is my passport. Verify me.

Overhyped: Shouting. Marketing these days is shrill and repetitive. It’s one “targeted” click-here-and-buy-now ad after the other.

Underhyped: Voice as an operating system (vOS), artificial intelligence (AI) and automation. The future isn’t about turning up the volume on messaging; it’s about getting catered to with minimum possible effort. 

“Alexa, order me a Lyft for the party at Bob’s house tonight, turn on the dishwasher and oh, by the way, could you reorder some Cascade and get my dry cleaning picked up?” This is “all about me” in action. Telling our devices what we need, having them learn what we mean, and automating everything is the underlying trend CMOs should watch.

Get past the hype to get to your data epiphany

There are no easy steps to a data-driven epiphany, but there are achievable ones. Marketers must:  

  1. Focus on underlying long-term trends, not surface hype.
  2. Measure and optimize, but don’t fall in love with twiddling the knobs.
  3. Remember that data’s job is to suggest new questions, not give us the answers.
  4. Fall in love with persuasion, not technology.

Technology can help marketers create customer experiences that feel serendipitous. Data-driven tools enable this kind of reality, but strategy is the crucial ingredient for confirming the consumer’s belief: “It really is all about me.”

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